Shipper Beware

I recently had a customer who insisted that her package be sent UPS Ground. Apparently the Post Office lost one of her packages and she wasn't taking any chances. I tried to explain to her that it would be cheaper and get to her faster if we used flat rate boxes, which are considered Priority Mail, and that since it was glassware she was purchasing, it would be a good idea to get it there sooner, rather than later, but she insisted. So after carefully bubble wrapping and packaging her items, as I have hundreds of others, off I went to the UPS Store closest to me, a 40 minute drive no less, and shipped her package.

About a week later, I got an e-mail from her that the package had arrived and had been crushed in transit. Four of the 12 glasses she purchased were broken and she wanted to make a claim. I gave her the information from my receipt and she filed online, only to have it denied a few days later. She couldn't get a good answer as to why, other than the person at the UPS Store I shipped it from told her, “If we don't package it, we're not responsible.”

I offered to get involved and thus began one of the most frustrating experiences of my life, but this is the gist of what I discovered: If you ship from a UPS Store, they are independently owned and operated and responsible for any claims, even if you take in a package that you've packed and all they do is take your money and put a sticker on it. They consider the contract for services to be between the store and the person they ship it to and I, as the person who actually shipped it, am considered a third party, whom they are not able to give information to.

Since I was getting nowhere with UPS directly, I contacted the store I shipped if from, who told me that UPS had denied the claim based on improper packaging, yet the customer still had the box and nobody had ever inspected it. Curious, I dropped by the store and got a copy of the denial letter, which said, in short, UPS themselves were not responsible because the thickness of the bubble wrap wasn't to their standards. Seems odd, considering they never saw the inside of the box, but apparently this is an automatic response to claims when they are shipped from a UPS Store, which then puts the burden on the Store, not UPS, to pay the claim, but wait a minute, the Store says if they don't do the packing, they don't pay. Talk about a vicious circle.

So I contacted UPS again, wanting to know how they could deny a claim based on packaging they never inspected. Several frustrating and uninformative e-mails later, I finally got someone to reopen the claim for the customer and was told that the customer, not myself (third party that I am), would have to contact the store it was shipped from to get a response. I was certainly glad to be out of the loop, which seemed more like a noose after a week of back-and-forth e-mails that just kept repeating the same verbiage over and over without actually answering even one of my questions, but now my poor customer would have to embark on her own frustrating journey.

So here's my advice to anyone who ships on a regular basis: If you are going to deal with UPS, you best be shipping from one of their facilities and not a UPS Store or better yet, just stick with old USPS, who pays claims, answers questions in a straightforward manner and makes it all as quick as a click of a button with their online claims process.

Tobi Minich

The Discerning Divas


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